India: India Pale Ale hard to find

India Pale Ale (IPA), is hard to find in India, despite its name and history. Originally IPA was a top fermented English beer with a high hop content to preserve the beer for the long journey from colonial England to its territories in India. After being forgotten for a long time, the beer became very popular again with the rise of craft breweries around the world.

The reason for the lacking popularity of IPA in India might be that craft brewing in India still experiences a lot of hurdles. The country is still dominated by mass-produced lagers and whisky. Microbreweries are only allowed in a few cities, including Mumbai and Bangalore. Delhi, the second most populous city in India, still does not allow microbreweries despite a promise by the municipal government.

Another problem is the strict official regulation, which often does not allow microbreweries to sell their beer off-site. High taxes and varying taxation and legislation among the twenty-nine states and seven union territories in India very often prohibit a wider distribution of the product. Last but not least is the need to pasteurize beer, a fact which is very uncommon for craft breweries in other parts of the world, because refrigerated transport in India is unreliable.

But besides all of those obstacles, craft brewing is also on the advance in India. In 2008 there were only two brew pubs in India; today there are about 80. Some of the microbreweries are already organized in the Craft Brewers Association of India, which was formed in 2014 and which fights for an easier access of their members to the Indian market. Most likely this will help to establish again Indian Pale Ale as a common beer type in India.

Ishan Grover, Msc in Food and Beverage Science from Heriot-Watt University and Business Partner at RJ Brewing Solutions, which has successfully installed approximately 40 microbreweries in India and was responsible for setting up India’s first brewery in Gurgaon in the outskirts of New Delhi in 2008, likes to promote uncommon beer styles in India. He cites for example Quaff and Lagom, a brew pub from Gurgaon that “has launched an IPA-style beer, which is a very hops forward beer and still not a very popular style in India,” He adds that young Indians more and more travel overseas and willing to explore new beer styles. “They prefer quality beer products, are more experimental and try new styles”.

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